We will return to the Deep Purple Project after this instalment of Getting More Tale.
GETTING MORE TALE #468: The Lies of Ian
I feel blessed to have grown up in the 1980’s. What an era! It was the age of Star Wars, Van Halen, Dio, GI Joe, and Transformers. We had the A-Team and Magnum PI fighting on the side of good. By the end of the decade, hard rock had hit another major peak again (before being dethroned by grunge in 1991). It was a good time to be in school. In fact I would argue it was the best time to be in school.
I spent nine years, from Kindergarten to grade eight, in the same place: St. Anthony Daniel Catholic school. Or, as my sister used to call it, the “Hell Hole”. I lived in a great time to be in school; too bad I went to a shite school! The bullies were mean and the teachers did not give one shit — not even one. In fact the teachers often exacerbated the situation by embarrassing the shy and fragile in obvious loud ways, giving the bullies more ammunition come recess time.
It was in this environment that I befriended Ian Johnson, a kid with a pretty wild imagination. He was a good guy, we had birthday parties together and sleepovers and went to movies. We played a lot of Star Wars. His dad made Star Wars “tables”: giant playsets of Dagobah and the Death Star, built out of actual tables with bits cut out. Ian was definitely the only kid around who had one of those! He was also the only kid in class who claimed to have ninjas training in his basement.
Ian Johnson lived in a townhouse. He did not have a basement.
We would walk home from school together, usually in a small group with one or two other kids. Ian was well known for his tall tales. He would swear up and down that every word was true. If that is the case, I have some startling news to share with the world!
1. It was not Walt Disney that came up with the ideas for Bambi. It was in fact Ian Johnson who gave Disney the idea to make it. Please don’t scrutinize the timeline of events too closely. Ian said it; it had to be true.
2. Ian was a mathematician. He was one of the world’s leading mathematicians. When I asked him why he failed the math quiz in class, it was because he was “not an expert in math that hasn’t been invented yet.” (That would be long division.)
3. He had a squad of ninjas training in his basement. Below his townhouse, he had a training facility several storeys deep. The exact depth changed from tale to tale. The main takeaway from this is that Ian had a huge concrete ninja bunker full of the deadliest weaponry hiding under his townhouse in suburban Kitchener, Ontario. This one, nobody bought. We’d fallen for some of his lies before but this one was just too big and fat to swallow. We nodded and smiled because to question Johnson’s stories would lead to endless arguing.
4. Ian knew George Lucas. He had read Star Wars episodes I, II and III. He knew what happened in them and described it in great detail. There was an encounter between Jabba the Hutt and Han Solo, setting up the bounty on Solo’s head. The level of detail made this one hard to disbelieve. Solo took a shot at Jabba with his blaster, who jumped out of the way, dodging the bolt. Indeed early versions of Jabba the Hutt before 1983 did have legs. He also described a sequence including creatures called “stonemites”. Solo was hiding in a cave full of these things which could eat through stone like termites through wood. It wasn’t until 2002 that I learned Ian had lifted these elements wholesale from Marvel Comics’ Star Wars issue #28, from 1979. That’s why his descriptions were so clear and believable. It was things like this that made it hard to tell when Johnson was lying or telling the truth.
5. Mixing half-truths with fiction, Ian told us all how he knew Brian Vollmer of Helix. I later confirmed this part of the story to be true. Back in Record Store Tales Part 2: Gimme an R! we talked in great detail about a time when Helix were local legends in these parts. I confirmed with Vollmer myself that he did live on Breckenridge Drive in Kitchener, three doors down from Johnson, exactly as Ian described it. He would often point to the Vollmers’ townhouse as we rode by on our bikes, but there was rarely anyone home. Ian also described a Christmas card that Brian Vollmer received from Blackie Lawless of W.A.S.P. This also turned out to be a true story. I recognized the card when Brian added a picture of it to the official Helix website. Again, it was exactly as Johnson told us. What was not true is that Ian took credit for the “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'” music video. “That music video was my idea,” claimed Ian. “I was talking to Brian Vollmer and I told him, ‘what you really need is a video with lots and lots of girls in it.'”
I will give Ian Johnson credit for one thing, which is while I was still listening to Iron Maiden and Kiss, he had discovered a newer heavier band called Metallica. They only had two albums out, Kill ‘Em All and Ride the Lightning. “Have you ever heard Metallica?” he asked me. “You will.” He brought the tapes to school and played a track or two. Giving credit when it’s due, Ian was the first kid I knew to have heard of Metallica. He was on top of his heavy metal.
That is, until 1986. That is when Ian Johnson dropped the metal and went full-bore new wave. “Girls don’t like heavy metal,” he explained to me during a heated argument. Girls. PAH! Like many kids, Ian turned from friend to bully later in school.
This one is for Ian Johnson wherever you are. I’m sure he’s still out there, consulting Disney on the new Star Wars movie backed by a squad of fully trained ninjas.